Recipes: Food for Thought
The new food for thought: community-building through food, local ingredients and the comforts of cooking. Here, secret recipes from chefs you’ll want to try at home this holiday season.
When you think of the Neal Brothers, you may think snack foods. You can find the food company’s branded kettle-cooked potato chips, pretzels and popcorn on the shelves, but did you know that they are also the guys that discovered and brought to market Kicking Horse Coffee, Raincoast Crisps and Tazo Tea?
The Neal Brothers (Peter and Chris ) started in 1988 in small-town Ontario – their mother’s Aurora kitchen, to be exact – with a recipe for gourmet croutons. Since, they’ve expanded to snack foods, dressings, mayonnaise and other condiments, using natural and organic ingredients.
The brothers’ latest project is as grassroots as their start. Goodness: Recipes & Stories is a cookbook collection from top chefs and those who cook for the community across our country. Fifty per cent of the profits from the book will be donated to Community Food Centres Canada (CFCC), and it is a strong case for busting the myth that eating healthier is too expensive for people on fixed incomes.
“One of the goals for CFCC is to show people how to grow food, how to make smarter food choices within their economic means and how to prepare good, nutritious, wholesome foods,” says Peter.
There is a narrative, he adds, which runs as a central theme through all of the programming at CFCC: “Good food, not necessarily expensive food, is powerful. It energizes our bodies and helps keep us healthy.”
Beyond the centres, he wanted people to be able to bring the concept home and help the cause – with a few top chefs, such as Dragons’ Den’s Vikram Vij and Top Chef Canada winner Carl Heinrich, as the draw.
But there was one basic criterion: “We were looking for people who were adding genuine goodness to their communities with the common thread being food,” Peter says. The idea came from a National Advisory Council meeting for CCFC, he recalls, where members were challenged with raising awareness and funds.
“A light bulb went on in my brain: I had found the right hook!” – a book about philanthropy and entrepreneurship that would inspire people as well as educate them about CFCC.
At a glance, you’ll notice the words food activist appear on many of the contributors’ biographies. But are they all chefs? “Absolutely not,” Peter says, “we have many personalities in the book who are not chefs.” And while it is used to showcase renowned chefs, the goal is to also celebrate everyday unknown heroes.
“Anyone with a love for food and a respect for what is right, from a social justice or environmental standpoint can be a food activist!” The new food for thought, then: community building through what we eat, the comforts of home cooking and local ingredients.
At this time of year, when family gatherings are on the calendar, this is a currency we can all get behind.
With this in mind, we asked the Neal Brothers to create a menu: a starter, a dish that would suit vegetarians, two mains from which to choose (for those who might eschew red meat, there’s a chicken recipe) and dessert. Enjoy!
& Parsnip soup
From Paul Rogalski, chef and co-owner Rouge and Bistro Rouge, Calgary My baba used to cook on the farm with a wood-fired stove and oven. She had the best garden and made everything from scratch. It was her epic meals that made me want to be a chef. To honour my grandmother’s spirit, use freshly harvested ingredients and a wood-fired oven like she did. If those aren’t options, a trip to a farmers market and a regular oven will do, of course. Either way, roasting the vegetables is essential.
Caramelized Onion Perogies with Braised Beef Shank & Celery Root Purée
From Carl Heinrich, chef, Richmond Station, Toronto
This dish is a great example of how to use all of a local ingredient.
At Richmond Station, we only buy whole animals, directly from the farmer and only from southern Ontario. We know all our producers well and this helps us find the best-quality ingredients out there.
2 tbsp oil
1 lb beef shank
4 cups beef stock
1 cup dry red wine
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 small bay leaf
In large skillet over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add beef shank and sear on all sides until well caramelized, about 5 minutes per side. Add stock and wine and bring to a simmer. Add rosemary, thyme, and bay leaf; cover and braise in 250 F oven until meat is fall-off-the-bone tender, about 3 hours.
Transfer braised shanks to plate and cover to keep warm. Place pan with liquid over high heat and skim to remove all fat on top. Reduce until thick, about 30 minutes. Cut braised meat into small pieces and add to reduced liquid. Cover and set aside, keeping warm.
3 russet potatoes, unpeeled
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions, thinly sliced
3 green onions, thinly sliced
¼ cup sour cream
8 oz aged cheddar cheese, shredded
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Stab potatoes with fork and bake directly on middle rack in 400 F oven until very soft, about 1 hour. Set aside to cool slightly.
Slice cooled potatoes in half and scoop out flesh (discard skins). Pass potatoes through
a ricer or mash with a masher.
Meanwhile, in skillet over medium heat, heat oil. Add onions and cook until caramelized, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook until very soft, about 20 minutes.
To mashed potatoes, add caramelized onions, green onions, sour cream and shredded cheese. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Mushroom & Toasted Bran Risotto
From Andrea Carlson, chef and co-owner, Burdock & Co., Vancouver This is a simple, clean risotto that lets the nuttiness of the toasted bran and the sweetness of the rice shine through. We like to use rice produced by Masa Shiroki – it’s the first rice grown in B.C.!
7 tbsp butter, divided
2 shallots, finely diced
1 ½ cups risotto rice (see Tip 1)
¼ cup dry white wine
3-4 cups hot water, divided
4 tbsp toasted rice bran (see Tip 2)
½ cup roughly chopped black trumpet mushrooms (see Tip 3)
3 oz shaved aged farmhouse cheese (we prefer fermière)
Sour Bran Broth (optional, recipe follows)
In skillet over medium heat, melt 4 tbsp of the butter. Add shallots and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add rice and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes, until well coated. Add wine and cook, stirring to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, until wine has almost evaporated, about 2 minutes.
Add 1 cup of the hot water, stirring constantly until absorbed by rice, about 5 minutes. Add remaining hot water 1 cup at a time, continuing to stir constantly until rice is creamy yet slightly firm (al dente). Sprinkle with salt to taste. Stir in 2 tbsp of the butter and toasted rice bran. Cover and set aside, keeping warm.
In clean skillet, melt remaining 1 tbsp butter. Add mushrooms and cook until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Divide risotto among serving bowls. Top with sautéed mushrooms, cheese and sour bran broth (if using). Serve.
Poached Pears in Red Wine
From Kristina McMillan, director, NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre, Winnipeg Poached pears in red wine is pure heaven. This is a traditional Italian recipe made with simple ingredients. Chef Anna Paganelli of De Luca’s in Winnipeg shared the preparation with me. I had the pleasure of working alongside Anna for a few years, and she taught me that if you use quality ingredients in your recipes, the flavours will absolutely sing.
6 ripe Bosc pears,
unpeeled, cored and halved
1 lemon, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
2 cups dry red wine